When courting a woman don’t ask advice of a bachelor.
-Cowboy Charm School
I’m excited that my next book Cowboy Charm School will be published September 4th (but can be ordered now.) I played with the idea for four or five years before I actually got around to writing the book. Book ideas generally come to me in scenes. I’ll suddenly visualize someone atop a runaway stagecoach or scrambling over a roof and then have to figure out who, what, and why.
The scene that popped into my head for Cowboy Charm School was a wedding scene with a handsome stranger running down the church aisle yelling, “Stop the Wedding!”
It took me awhile to figure out that the man was Texas Ranger Brett Tucker, who thinks he’s saving the bride, Kate Denver, from marrying an outlaw. He’s mistaken, of course, but the groom jealously jumps to all the wrong conclusions and the couple breaks-up.
Brett feels terrible for what’s he’s done and is determined to set things right. Since the hapless groom hasn’t a clue as to how to win Kate back, it’s up to Brett to give him a few pointers–and that’s when the real trouble begins.
For a chance to win a copy of the book, tell us the best or worse advice anyone ever gave you. (Contest guidelines apply.)
“A man’s got to have a code, a creed to live by, no matter his job.”
When I began writing western historical romances, I had to do some serious research on the old west. It became quickly apparent that every account of the men and women who came out to the new frontier during the westward expansion of the United States were bound by a special caveat that ruled their conduct … not by written laws. Being a native Texan, I grew up with these unspoken policies being pounded in my head, but never thought about them being anything but doing what is right whether you can legally get by with it or not. I never thought about “The Lone Ranger” being a perfect example of a hero living by homespun laws and a gentleman’s agreement.
Almost every article about the Code of the West attributes the famous western writer, Zane Grey, as the first chronicler of the unwritten laws in his 1934 novel aptly titled The Code of the West. The resilient, heroic trailblazers who forged west and learned to live in the rough and tough country were bound by these understood rules that centered on integrity, fair play, loyalty, hospitality, and respect for the land. For these pioneers, their survival depended largely upon their ability to coexist with their neighbors, their rivals, and their peers.
A cowman might break every written law on the books if deemed necessary, but took pride in upholding his own code of ethics. Failure to abide by the unwritten law of the land didn’t necessarily bring formal punishment, but the man who broke it basically became a social outcast. Losing a man’s honor was considered a fate worse than being hanged.
I read a very technical, yet interesting, article where historians and social theorists explained the evolution of the Code of the West. How it was a result of centuries-old English common law. The paper explained the code’s elements which includes “no duty to retreat”, “the imperative of personal self-redress”, “homestead ethics”, and “ethic of individual enterprise.”
Although informative and logical, it sounded a little stiff, so here’s my explanation of the code as it applies today as it did in the Old West.
1. Mind your own business; 2. Keep your hands to yourself; if it isn’t yours, don’t touch it; 3. Be loyal, modest, courageous, friendly, and respectful; and 4. Live by the Golden Rule.
There are many practical, and some quite humorous, interpretations, I’ve come across.
Remove your guns before sitting at the dining table.
Always drink your whiskey with your gun hand, to show your friendly intentions.Never try on another man’s hat.
Cuss all you want, but only around men, horses, and cow.
Defend yourself whenever necessary and look out for your own; but never shoot an unarmed or unwarned enemy. Known as “the rattlesnake code”, always warn before you strike.
And, never shoot a woman, no matter what.
Don’t inquire into a person’s past.
Take the measure of a man for what he is today.
Be pleasant even when out of sorts. Complaining is for quitters, and a cowboy hates quitters.
When approaching someone from behind, give a loud greeting (call to camp) before you get within shooting range.
After you pass someone on the trail, don’t look back…it implies you don’t trust him.
Be modest. A braggart who is “all gurgle and no guts” is intolerable.
Honest is absolute–your word is your bond, a handshake is more binding than a contract.
There are hundreds of “do’s and don’t” that the pioneers and cowboys honored because of the informal code they lived by. What are some of your favorites?
I’m giving away an autographed copy of any of the western historical romance anthologies that I wrote with fellow Filly Linda Broday, Jodi Thomas and the late DeWanna Pace. I added a picture of our anthology “Give Me a Texas Ranger” that was included in the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame Writing the Ranger exhibit.
Is it just me or have good manners gone the way of trail drives? I have three grandchildren working summer jobs and I’m appalled at the stories they tell about customer rudeness.
It didn’t always used to be that way. Back in the Old West, manners ruled. A cowboy might have been rough around the edges and whooped-it-up on occasion, but he also knew his Ps and Qs. To show you what I mean, let’s compare today’s manners with those of the past.
Hitting the Trail: Navigating some of today’s roads is like steering through a metal stampede. It’s every man/woman for his/her self. Cars ride on your tail and cut you off. To stay on the defense, today’s drivers must contend with drunkenness, speeding and texting—and that ain’t all. If this doesn’t make you long for the good ole days, I don’t know what will.
The Cowboy Way: When riding a horse, a cowboy would never think of cutting between another rider and the herd. Nor would he ride in such a way as to interfere with another man’s vision. Crossing in front of another without a polite, “Excuse me” would not have been tolerated. As for riding drunk; that would have gotten a wrangler fired on the spot.
Please and Thank You: Recently I saw a young man hold a restaurant door open for a young woman. Instead of saying thank you, she chewed him out. Oh, me, oh, my. What is the world coming to?
The Cowboy Way: The first man coming to a gate was expected to open it for the others. Everyone passing through would say thank you. Holding a door open for a lady went without saying, as did tipping his hat and saying a polite, “Howdy, ma’am.” Back in the old days, a cowboy might have gotten a smile from the lady, but he sure wouldn’t have gotten a tongue-lashing.
Cell Phones: I could probably rattle on about poor cell phone manners, but for me, loud talking is the worst offense. During a recent visit to the emergency room, I was privy to every patient’s medical condition and more.
The Cowboy Way: Those early cowboys didn’t have cell phones, of course, which is probably a good thing; A ringing phone would have startled the cattle and maybe even the horses. John Wayne wasn’t talking about cell phones when he said, “Talk low, talk slow, and don’t say too much,” but that’s not bad advice. Especially in the ER.
So what do you think? Are good manners a thing of the past or are they still very much alive?
A few weeks ago when I received an invitation to join the fabulous Fillies here at Petticoats & Pistols, I had to read it three times before I could fully latch onto the fact that I was going to be a Filly!
From the first time these wonderful ladies asked me to be a guest on the blog, I’ve been so impressed with them and the great community they’ve built here. And now I get to be part of it! It’s hard to picture this lil’ ol’ farm girl getting to hang out here, but I’m sure excited to be counted among the Fillies.
Circa 1970-something… me with a fawn our neighbor rescued
I’ve possessed a love of books, reading, and creating stories for as long as I can remember. I also loved growing up on a farm where my dad let me tag after him all the time. (You can find a few of our adventures together in Farm Girl– humorous takes on true things that happened during my childhood.)
In fact, he kept a blanket, one of my baby dolls, storybooks, and a supply of candy in the swather so I could ride with him whenever it was hay-cutting time.
While I trailed Dad like a shadow, I learned about rural life, country living, cowboys, and heroes.
Much of what I saw, experienced, and lived during my formative years is woven into the threads of the sweet contemporary and historical stories I write. My 50th book just released last week, so I’ve had many opportunities to incorporate a variety of details from my background, but there’s one thing I keep circling my wagon around.
The heroes in my books are often rugged guys who can be a little rough around the edges, but they generally hold a healthy respect toward women and stick to an unspoken code of chivalry we may never know or decipher.
While some may think these types of men exist only in my fertile imagination, I know they are real. Honestly, they continually inspire me.
My own beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller, is a great source of gallant deeds. Although he isn’t much of a talker, if I can get him to be serious for five minutes, he typically manages to say something that melts my heart. (But don’t tell him I shared that with you. I think that breaks rule #63 in the code.)
When I look for validation that the code is alive and well in others of the male species beyond Captain Cavedweller, I find it.
For example, I recently met a PRCA bull rider. He’d never seen me before. Didn’t know me from Adam’s off ox. In fact, he couldn’t be blamed if he was full of himself since he’s quite successful in his line of work. The opposite seemed true, though. When we were introduced, he quickly snatched off his hat, politely tipped his head, and called me “ma’am.” Respectful, kind, and genuine are words I could easily use to describe him. He couldn’t have been more mannerly if Miss Etiquette had been whispering in his ear.
In one of my contemporary romances, Learnin’ The Ropes, the bossy, crusty ranch foreman outlines what he believes to be the code all men should live by to the new greenhorn his boss hired.
The rules are as follows:
Once you give your word and a handshake, it’s as binding as signing a contract.
Never betray a trust.
Never lie, cheat or steal.
Treat all children, animals, and old folks like you want to be treated.
Call your elders sir and ma’am.
Treat women with respect and care.
Always tip your hat to a lady and take it off at the dinner table and in church.
Work hard and give your boss an honest day for your pay.
If someone needs a hand, lend yours to the task.
Respect the flag and our nation.
Be clean – both on the outside and inside of your person.
Never stop learning.
Never make fun of someone who gave it their best.
Never wear your spurs or dirty boots in the house.
Fight fair, be brave, and stand up for what’s right.
Despite what others might say, the Cowboy Code rides on. I’m so, so glad it does. I need those amazing heroes to counter the strong, independent, sassy women in the stories I write. A milksop hero just won’t do for them. Nope, not at all.
I think one of the reasons we love to read western romances is because the stories and characters are full of strength, hope, and love. My new release, set in the Wild West town of Pendleton, Oregon, during WWII, centers on the theme of hope.
In the story, (based on the famous Doolittle Raid… did you know 79 of the 80 men on the mission were based at Pendleton? I should probably provide ample warning that I love researching historical details for my stories!) our hero, Klayne, is convinced he’s going to die on a secret mission. Desperate to leave something, someone, behind, he talks a rancher’s daughter into marrying him, in name only, of course. Too bad Delaney has far different plans…
As a thank you for joining us today, I hope you’ll download a free copy of Heart of Clay, the very first romance I wrote.
Easy-going cowboy Clay Matthews is a respected college professor. He’s the man family and friends turn to for help, or when they need a good laugh. Life would be almost perfect if he could figure out the mysterious, mind-boggling woman who was his wife…